Migraine sufferers may someday open their medicine cabinets and reach for a patch instead of pills.
A new study published in the journal Neurology found that a wireless patch using electrical stimulation to block pain signals could ease migraine pain as well as traditional migraine medication. More research needs to be done to confirm the results, but researchers are hopeful that a drug-free pain management solution free of negative side effects like nausea, drowsiness, or muscle weakness could be on the horizon.
“These results … are exciting. People with migraines are looking for non-drug treatments and this new device is easy to use, has no side effects, and can be conveniently used in work or social settings,” said study author David Yarnitsky, MD, of Technion Faculty of Medicine in Israel in a news release.
A small group of migraine sufferers with between two and eight attacks per month applied a patch to their upper arm soon after the start of a migraine and kept it there for 20 minutes. They were instructed not to take any other medication and received either a placebo, stimulation at a very low frequency, or active stimulation at one of four levels. Sixty-four percent of participants reported at least 50 percent reduction in pain at the three highest electrical stimulation levels. Even more encouraging is that for those who started with moderate to severe headache pain, 58 percent of them were able to knock pain levels down to mild or no pain at all with the highest stimulation.
“These results are similar to those seen for the triptan medications,” said Dr. Yarnitsky. Triptans are a common migraine treatment and work by causing blood vessels to constrict, thus blocking pain pathways in the brain.
The revolutionary wireless patch, called Nerivio Migra, uses rubber electrodes and a chip on an armband to transmit electrical stimulation via a smartphone app. The stimulation prevented migraine-induced pain signals from reaching the brain.
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